Utilities pledge to be ready for plug-ins

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - If electric cars plug in at rates hoped for by automakers in the coming years, there will be enough power to serve them, the biggest U.S. electric utilities industry group vowed.

The utilities have pledged to make sure the electricity is there on demand, to work with policy makers on tax rebates and customer financial incentives and to make it easy for consumers to charge up car batteries, according to the Edison Electric Institute.

Convincing Americans of the benefits of plugging in will be a big part of the utilities-automakers efforts, announced at a plug-in conference in Detroit. They will also try to convince consumers to charge up an electric vehicle's batteries at night when power is cheaper and easily available.

"Our industry acutely recognizes that now is the time to redouble our ongoing efforts to lay the groundwork for making plug-in electric transportation in this country a reality, not just a vision," said Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Detroit-based DTE Energy, who is this year's chairman of the Edison Electric Institute.

One of the biggest hurdles in electrifying the U.S. vehicle fleet is the need for standardization of hooking into the power grid.

A report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers noted that the promise of electric vehicles depends on infrastructure development, environmental impact and government support.

It calls for more government assistance to make EVs more affordable, particularly in the next few years.

"It's important that the customer experience with plug-in electric vehicles be a good one," said Ted Craver, chief executive of Southern California Edison. "As the market for plug-in vehicles develops and matures, electric utilities will need to work closely with state and local officials, public and private entities, automakers and other stakeholders to make sure the charging infrastructure is ready."

While Obama wants a million plug-in vehicles by 2015 in the United States alone, the report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated that by 2015 to be near 600,000 to 700,000 vehicles.


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